Whatever you slaughter in America, you can eat it. From bone marrow to butthole, sweetbreads (which are definitely not sugary) to trotters, from cheek to cheek, all of the animal kingdom is A-OK farm to table, nose to tail, and all in the name of brutal commerce.
Like any carnivore, I’ve eaten lots of animals. Most can be found in childhood barnyard books: smiling cows, grinning pigs, and chickens pecking the dirt while Farmer Joe drives his big green tractor, knowing that his pals will end up gutted and hanging on a rack.
I’ve sampled fuzzy friends you don’t see on every menu. Ostrich steak and kangaroo, camel and elk. I had deer but didn’t like the taste. Something about spaghetti backstrap still doesn’t seem right. I’ve noshed on frog’s legs and foie gras, nibbled a shark, scarfed some crocodile in Sydney and fried alligator in Florida. Everyone chows down with reckless abandon on grass-fed bison burgers, but somehow I’m the asshole for wanting to eat horse.
This aversion must have its roots somewhere deep in our cultural obsession with cowboys, the lone rider drifting past the Sierra Nevada, and now the average person’s stomach turns if they even think about chowing down on Mustang. But we found a way to shut off the reptilian parts of brains that ain’t cool with seeing chickies and piggies on hooks because they’re awesome crumbled across a meat lover’s pizza.
When a contestant cooked horse tartare on Top Chef Canada, people lost their minds, unable to grasp how the rules aren’t the same when you’re cooking French. I mean, those people figured out that if you drown a snail in enough garlic butter, that shit is delicious.
From what I’ve read, people who’ve had horse say it’s gamey but sweet? Kind of like venison mixed with steak, which doesn’t sound bad. In a weight loss–obsessed culture that eats algae and does pepper-water enemas, horse seems downright logical. It’s cleaner than whatever the mega-barnyard is pumping out.
Look, it’s not exactly “illegal” to eat horse, but it’s definitely frowned upon. We can ride these dudes silly at the track, and if one breaks a leg, we go at it like Clemenza in The Godfather. The ones unlucky enough not to die from a clean shot to the head end up at the glue factory, or as the secret ingredient in your kid’s Jello. Surprise! Gelatin is horse.
When I was a kid, my grandpa in Arkansas would blow a horse’s brains out if it got sick or hurt with as much compassion as checking the time, saying it was part of running livestock.
One time he 86ed a sick calf, chained its feet to the tailgate of his rusty Ford and dragged it to the property’s edge for nature to do its thing. It’s hard to imagine whenever he put a horse down, its fate wasn’t similar. Butchering the horse never crossed his mind. The cow he raised for the last year that would end up as someone’s filet may have had a fun name like Sunshine, but ole Sugarfoot served up Argentinian-style across fire with a sea salt rub? Gauche.
Do I think we should be chowing down on ex-racehorses? Probably not. Can you imagine the drugs a local track horse gets? They’ve had more needles in their asses than a pro ball player. If you’re going to eat horse, you want free-range, like eggs, maybe even Wagyu-style with a daily massage.
Turns out, way back in the day, Pope Gregory III put the kibosh (not the kabob, sadly) on horse as a political move against the Pagans, and that move has carried over to me in an age where I can Google how Christianity stole all of the fun parts of Christmas from some naked, fire-dancing pagans. I saw a photo of someone eating pig brains and scrambled eggs last week. On Facebook. Tell me that ain’t gross.
The reason France has horse on the menu? In the Napoleonic era, revolutionaries whacked aristocrats’ thoroughbreds to feed people. Up until World War II, horse was even on some menus here in the States until beef became the go-to — thanks to lobbyists and the tendency for cows to get real big, real fast.
Just because we settled the land on horseback, horse is untouchable. Thanks to Clint Eastwood movies, him tipping his hat like some mountain-man badass, I have to suffer in culinary curiosity.
Don’t tell me I’m the weirdo. Cows are all homespun and cute as can be, and yet we literally wear their skin. That fancy leather couch is a dead cow stretched and tanned, and you’re gonna force me to let protein go to waste because horses munch carrots funny with their big ole teeth?
And speaking of funny, have you seen a literal horse’s ass? It’s all huge and muscular. Asses are totally in, and horses have serious butt cheeks that could feed a village.
According to Google, I can either roll up to Quebec for horse steak or drive to Nuevo Laredo for street meat horse tacos. I live in Texas, so I could pack up my boys and the wife and cruise down across the border in a few hours, but I doubt my significant other would be cool with that. Something about “border town delicacy” doesn’t scream “family vacation.”
Till then, it looks like I’m stuck ordering elk, deer, rabbit, waterfowl, caribou, antelope, wild turkey, or boar, daydreaming about what horse might taste like, because government rules and all that.
I should probably accept that horse tastes like crap. If it were so amazing, we’d have bootleg supper clubs and secret horse-killing societies, right? Yet, here I am letting Star, Duke, and Lilly trot on by.
In the meantime, who’s up for hog brain burritos?
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